Skip to main content
10:00 am
so much to go. he makes us off and it would've been more than we really have. >> baratunde thurston, "how to be black" is the name of the book. this is booktv on c-span 2. >> for the next half-hour, the effect the civil war had on the political economic and social structures. [applause] >> thank you i hope you will be patient while a psychopathic ilia here. thank you all for coming out this evening. without further ado, let me get right into this. decades after the civil war
10:01 am
ended, katherine stone, who do you on the screen, published her memoirs of which he called the easy life that she, her wealthy slave owning family have led under 1200-acre plantation in prewar louisiana. for members of her family, she recalled there was always something going on. dark ..
10:02 am
>> the stone family's life of, again her words, luxurious ease, some 150 enslaved human beings toiled in the plantation's cotton and cane fields. six days a week, week after week, month after month, year after year. the civil war's outbreak in april of 1861 signaled the beginning of the end of the stone family's accustomed wealth and comfort. katherine was soon confiding to her diary the fighting between north and south infected slaves with the hope of radical change in their condition. they were, therefore, she said,
10:03 am
becoming lazy and disobedient, and they were giving a lot of trouble, her words again, generally. and one evening as katherine and her relatives sat on the veranda of their plantation home, someone whom she described as a runaway negro darted past them. katherine's brother leapt to the pursuit, but the desperate fugitive made good his escape. the stones and their neighbors began to worry that they were, in her words, living on a land mine. seeking some refuge from these anxieties, katherine turned, she said, to the fictional works of the then-popular 19th century southern author edgar allen poe. but with her or nerves already frayed, she decided she was going to avoid his most fearsome pieces, as she puts it.
10:04 am
and perhaps -- we don't know, but perhaps she chose the fall of the house of usher. it's not a particularly grisly story, it's not filled with grim supernatural horrors which might have made in this short story seem a relatively safe distraction from the unsettling events around her. that story begins, you may recall, poe's narrator is paying a visit to a friend, a man named roderick usher who is the heir of an old, wealthy and venerable family, and he's the current master of its imposing usher mansion. and the first glance this mansion's massive evidence, says the narrator, gave little token of instability. but its seeming soldty, he goes
10:05 am
on to say -- solidity, he goes on to say, concealed a barely perceptive fissure that ran down through it from its roof to its foundation. posed narrator, after spending some time chatting with usher, suddenly hear's the mansions hidden structural fault begin to announce itself. first in a muted tremor, then in a powerful shudder, and then a mounting roar. and finally as the narrator watches in shock and horror, the mansion's walls begin to tremble. it's barely discernly -- its barely discernible fissure gapes white open, the mansion collapses burying it owner in the rubble. and the waters of the lake that surround the mansion then close, poe says, solemnly and silently
10:06 am
over the fragments of the house of usher. katherine stone chose this book to relieve her of her anxieties. one imagines that it wound up offering her relatively little comfort. because, in fact, she too, after all, resided in an imposing and outwardly sturdy structure, the house of dixie, the slavery-based society for the american south. and hers, too, was already beginning to display the deep fissures that ran through it. and as the civil war continued, those fissures were going to widen until the whole structure eventually collapsed. some of the fissures that ran through the house of dixie and that the civil war greatly widened divided white southerners from one another. the pro-confederate war effort, for example, eroded white unity
10:07 am
in the south by demanding too much of it. it demanded too much of some slave own or ors, especially those in -- owners, especially those in the hills and the mountains where resentment grew that the ever-heavier burdens of fighting this war to preserve slavery were failing to accomplish their goal and, meanwhile, were falling disproportionately on those with less of a stake in that war. but the war effort also became too demanding in the eyes of many members of the southern elite who proved to be too concerned with safeguarding their individual wealth and privileges to cooperate fully with the confederate government struggling to protect the interests of slave owners as a whole. and those are aspects of the book that i'm discussing with
10:08 am
you today. but this evening i'd like to talk to you about the most important fissure that ran through the house of dixie, slavery, and the three ways slavery figured in the origin and the progress of the o civil war. first of all, the war's central cause. secondly, as a crucial source of military power deployed during that war. and, third, slavery's erosion during the war and its destruction both of those things as an eventual union goal. the destruction of slavery as an eventual conscious, deliberate union goal. so let's start with cause. as you may know, in a recent national survey half of all those people, half of all those americans when were polled deny that slavery was the main cause of the u.s. civil war. and that view is apparently gaining ground, not losing
10:09 am
ground. because among younger people polled, those below 30 years of age, fully three out of five denied slavery's centrality to the war's origin. but in 186 of 0 and '61, leaders of both the union and the confederacy knew and said that slavery and the escalating national dispute over slavery's future was precisely what was leading most of the southern states to break from and break up the united states, thereby initiating the costliest war in the country's history. abraham lincoln noted in the his first inaugural address that, quote: one section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended while the other believes it is wrong b and ought to be extended -- sorry, and ought not to be extended, and this is the only substantial dispute, period. closed quote.
10:10 am
the president of the confederate states of america, jefferson davis, reminded his congress in 1861 these are his words: the labor of african slaves was and is indispensable to our prosperity so that with interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperilled by the election to the presidency of an anti-slavery man by abraham lincoln, he meant, the people of the southern states were driven to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced. and that course of action, of course, was leaving the federal union. davis was not overstating the stakes for him if his fellow -- for him and his fellow slave owners, the more than 12 million souls who resided in the southern states in 1860. nearly one out of three of those people was enslaved, was owned
10:11 am
outright by other people. and on the markets of the day, those nearly four million human beings were worth something like $3 billion. that was an immense sum at the time. it was a sum greater than the value of all the farmland in all the states of the south. it was a sum fully three times as great as the cost of constructing all the railroads that then ran throughout all the united states. to give you some idea of just what those human bodies were worth. but even more important to southern wealth than the sale price of these human bodies was the very profitable group of crops that the slaves produced for their masters and that made up the core of the southern economy. and only slave labor, only the
10:12 am
labor of people who were owned outright by their owners, by landowners who had no right to object, much less to refuse the conditions under which they were compelled to work, only slave labor would cultivate those crops intensively and cheaply enough to yield the tremendous profits that they did. slavery's importance to the southern elite was not simply a matter of dollars and cents. to many masters, as slave owners liked to be called, slavery appeared to be an essential, even an irreplaceable fixture of society. it was inseparable from everything that they knew and loved. it was inseparable from all aspects of what they refer to as their way of life. of course, economically but also socially and culturally. slavery was the unique basis of
10:13 am
the particular outlook, the assumptions, the norms, the habits, the relationships to which these masters had become deeply and reflectsively attached -- reflectsively attached. it defined their culture, it shaped their religion, it even shaped their individual personalities. so slavery was central to southern life. but slavery was also an institution, a form of property that contained a problem, a problem for the masters. this valuable form of property was capable of thinking, capable of yearning for freedom and capable of acting upon that yearning. joshua spieled, a kentucky friend owner who was a friend of abraham lincoln's, put it this way: slave property is unlike any other.
10:14 am
it is the only property in the world that has locomotion with a mind to control it. and he went on to say that's why they were so sensitive about any outside interference with it. slave property was valuable, but control over it seemed tenuous. and the masters' fear about that fact left them convinced that their laborers could be kept controlled and work profitably only if they were kept uneducated, uninformed, isolated from dangerous influences, closely watched, intimidated and convinced that or tear status as -- that their status as slaves was permanent and up changeable. unchangeable. to accomplish that, southern communities and state legislatures made it a crime to teach slaves to read, severely limited slaves' movements off their owners' property, created and beefed up slave patrols to
10:15 am
enforce those limits. it severely restricted the freedoms of the small community of free blacks who lived in the slave states, and they made it ever more difficult even for whatever masters might choose to do so to voluntarily free even their own slaves. to keep slaves convinced that both escape and resistance was hopeless, furthermore, required that the white population be dependably and visibly united in support of black servitude and ready to enforce that servitude. because to allow the appearance and allow the spread of anti-slavery sentiments among the white population might dispel the aura of inevitability, impreg in and about, permanence with which slave owners had assiduously
10:16 am
tried to surround that institution. and if that happened, it would surely encourage slaves to test, to resist and openly to challenge their masters' power. but as the years passed, keeping just the south solid for slavery didn't seem to be enough. they also had to curb the rights and political power of wrong-thinking whites who lived in the north, and that became an even bigger problem. because by the time of the american revolution, the north had embarked on a path of economic and social development that differed markedly and differed increasingly from that of the south. the combination of small farms, lively internal commerce, growing urban and manufacturing sectors seemed less compatible with slavery, more compatible with self-employment and with the hiring of legally-free wage
10:17 am
laborers. and in the north just as the south, the particular form that economic and social development took also strongly influenced people's values. values of all kinds; philosophical, religious, political. northerners came to view personal autonomy for all men and above all, the ownership of one's own body as the building block of any good society and the outright ownership of one human being by another, in contrast, came to seem more and more to those northerners economically backward, but also morally repugnant and politically dangerous to the republic. well, of course, southern leaders felt threatened by those northerners who were the most strongly and openly critical of slavery and believed that the words and deeds of such northerners might one way or
10:18 am
another directly or indirectly, again, encourage slaves to tug at their ponds. bonds. southern masters and their allies, therefore, set out to mute the voice of those troubled northerners. for example, by purging anti-slavery literature from the united states mails. and for as long as possible, they banished anti-slavery petitions and even anti-slavery speeches from the floor of the house of representatives. in 1850 they demanded and they got a new law that compelled northern citizens to join posses that were hunting people accused of being runaway shaves who had allege -- slaves who had allegedly escaped into the free states. most of all, the champions of slavery sought ways to retain the control that they had almost continuously exercised over the
10:19 am
federal government since the american revolution. and to prevent, above all, to prevent others from using the federal government in ways that might harm the slave owners' interests. in doing this, by the way, they were greatly aided by a clause of the constitution, the so-called three-fifths clause that gave southern whites much heavier representation in the house of respectives than their own numbers otherwise would have warranted. but southerners also sought to increase their representation in both houses of congress as well as in the electoral congress by steadily increasing the number of slave states in the union. and is -- and so it was during the 1840s that they vociferously demanded and lustily cheered both the annexation of texas and then war with mexico which, incidentally,
10:20 am
removed and transferred to the united states fully half of the national terrain of mexico. and southerners cheered this war in hopes that the land so acquired would become slave-worked land. then in 1854 they pressured congress into allowing slavery to take root in federally-owned territory that congress had explicitly closed to slavery 30 years later. the kansas and nebraska territory acquired during the louisiana purchase. then during the years that followed, northerners watched in the or horror as pro-slavery forced in kansas employed oppressive laws and extralegal violence to suppress their local opponents and critics. in 1857 a supreme court
10:21 am
dominated by southerners and pro-south democrats ruled in the famous dred scott case all federal territories were automatically and permanently and irreversibly open to slavery and its expansion into thoser stories. into those territories. so this was a massive, rather single-minded and pretty successful campaign to shore up slavery in the decades before the civil war. but this campaign failed to smother the sectional conflict. on the contrary, it escalated it. it eventually convinced most northerners that southern power meant northern weaknesses, that southern control of the national government mention infringement on northern interests and northern liberties and that, therefore, only a political party dedicated to stopping the expansion of slavery and containing and rolling back the political domination of the federal government by the slave
10:22 am
owners and their allies could protect the rights of the people of the north. that is what the republican party came into existence to do. its platform specifically promised to exclude slavery from all federal territories as you very well may know, and republican office holders made clear that if elected, they would turn that promise into government policy. it's important to emphasize at this point, i think, that this issue of slavery in the territories would -- was not confined in its significance to those territories. on the contrary, in the eyes of both slavery's supporters and it opponents, slavery's expansion was intimately connected to the future of slavery where it already existed. because both sides of this controversy firmly believed for both economic and political
10:23 am
reasons that slavery needed to expand ford to survive. -- in order to survive. much as a shark, it is said, needs to keep moving in order to keep breathing. leading republicans frankly and openly, for example, hoped that containing slavery geographically would eventually kill it within the states where it already existed. would, in fact, choke it to death. by preventing slavery from expanding into the territories, abraham lincoln repeatedly stated in his debates with fred rick douglas, as with stephen douglas, i beg your pardon, and in other occasions the late 1850s, he said by containing it we need to put it in its course of ultimate extiption. and by the way, president lincoln made it a central part of his campaign, literature.
10:24 am
so he wasn't hiding this view. on november 6, 1816, more than 1.8 million voters, nearly all of them northerners, elected this man, lincoln, president of the united states. to most whites in the deep south, the fact that the northern population was big enough and hostile enough to slavery to put such a man and his party in control of the executive branch of the federal government, that fact seemed the final proof that slavery was no longer safe within the united states. and during late 1860 and early 1861 for that reason, the seven states of the deep south -- colored on the map in dark blue -- all declared themselves out of the union. and they made no bones about why they were leaving. one of after another of them specifically identified the
10:25 am
north's hostility to slavery as the source of the grievance that was making them depart. and no one put the stakes more bluntly than the rich mississippi planter richard thompson archer. it is time, archer said, for all good southerners to stand his words united in defense of the god given right to own the african. end quote. the official secession documents just put the same sentiment in more polite legal language. now, eight other slave states who had closer ties with the union remained within the union, and those are the states colored on the map in front of you in gray and light blue. but four of those states, the ones in gray -- arkansas,
10:26 am
the lower south out the door unless the newly-elected president explicitly abandoned the platform on which he had just been elected. lincoln, they declared, must guarantee that slavery could in the future expand into all or part of the federal territories. and, by the way, not only those territories currently held, but also a territories yet -- also territories yet to be acquired. and that demand was made with an eye on eventually acquiring cuba, parts of central america and other parts of the caribbean which were expected to be turned into slave-holding territories and slave-holding eventually states. if lincoln did not agree to do this, they said, they would very likely move to join the confederacy as well. well, lincoln and his party refused to accede to these
10:27 am
extortion demands, and when in april of 1861 the confederacy's bombardment and seizure of fort sumter in charleston harbor sparked all-out war, these four upper south statements did choose side. they concluded that this war between a slave labor confederacy and free labor union was going to eventually and inevitably e evolve into a war over slavery itself. and in a war like that, the leaders of these four slave states decided they would stand with their sister slave states in defense of what they liked to call their peculiar institution. and so it was that a conflict over slavery expanded into a conflict over the territorial integrity of the nation itself. lincoln and his government considered the attempt to break up the federal union to be
10:28 am
illegal, to be treasonous, and by badly weakening and perhaps eventually dissolving the u.s. as a whole, utterly unacceptable. and on that particular question, the preservation of the union, the need to defend the states of the united states from an armed attempt to do it as a nation -- destroy it as a nation, the vast majority of those people who live inside the free states, republicans and nonrepublicans alike, agreeded wholeheartedly with lincoln and his party. he and his government, therefore, raised an army to come 3e8 the receding states to resume their proper places within the union, as you know. but the next question then was exactly how to fight that war. the republican government, we need to remember, embarked upon the war not intending to use the war itself to transform the south. the purpose of the union war effort in the eyes of its
10:29 am
republican government were simply to keep the slave states within the union, a union in which the republicans could then proceed with their plan to slowly, gradually, peacefully and with compensation eventually do away with slavery. methods, by the way, that had that been the way slavery came to an end, those methods would most likely have allowed some people to remain in slavery down through the end of the 19th century or p even later. that's how gradual emancipation worked in the 19th century. lincoln reaffirmed his commitment to the socially-conservative war program in december of 1861 in his annual message to congress. saying, as you see on the screen: in considering the policy to be adopted in suppressing the insurrection, i have been anxious and careful that the conflict shall not descend into a violent and
10:30 am
remorseless revolutionary struggle. the union must be preserved, he continued, but we should not be in haste to determine that radical and extreme measures are indispensable to preserve it. in this approach was dictated concern this approach was dictated in lincoln's mind by two assumptions. first, lincoln assumed that the national government must at all cost retain support of the four slave states still within the union, those in light blue. the so-called loyal border states, delaware, maryland and especially kentucky. and to do that, he believed, the republicans must not antagonize those states' politically powerful slave holderrers. antagonize them by interfearing with slavery in the she ceding -- seceding states, at least not any more than was
10:31 am
absolutely necessary. lincoln was sure that if he did otherwise, the slave holders of the loyal border states would pick up and love as well. and lee as well. second, lincoln assumed that only a small minority in these seceding states really supported secession. he and other republicans believed that the great majority of white southerners in the confederacy -- nonslave holders, slave holders alike -- were basically loyal, law-abiding citizens who had been tricked or outmaneuvered into secession by a minority of extremists. leaving slavery alone would, hopefully, win them back into the union. that's e the expectation. but after a full year of war and despite lincoln's efforts to spare their property and spare their feelings, precious few con fed rate -- confederate slave
10:32 am
owners were displaying any act of sympathy with the union or union policies. and this lack of support from supposedly pro-union slave other thans was all the more worrisome in the light of the bad news that was around that time coming from virginia battlefields in the middle of 1862. , and meanwhile, it was becoming painfully clear that confederate armies were everywhere benefiting greatly from the forced labor performed for them by slaves; building fortifications, placing artillery as you see here in this artist's sketch, carrying weapons, caring for the sick and wounded, tending horses, driving wagons, cooking and cleaning and sundry other tasks, raising the crops that fed the populations and fed the army. more and more republican leaders now, therefore, concluded that attempting to fight the war without offending the enemy was
10:33 am
impossible. concluded on the contrary that the union army must become more aggressive, must become more ruthless toward the confederate leadership and it supporters, b and in particular concluded that union armies must free slaves systematically and in large numbers. they must take slaves away from the confederacy and use them to strengthen the union war effort. slaves like these working on confederate fortifications in savannah. how did the union come to this understanding of the significance of slavery as a military factor? the courageous initiative of slaves themselves helped immeasurably to bring the union to this basic change of policy.
10:34 am
at e or nor mouse risk and enormous sacrifices to themselves and their families, more and more of them escaped from their masters as union armies approached. and to do that, they had to evade both enraged owners, reinforced slave patrols and confederate armies. and those who succeeded presented themselves before union soldiers offering to perform tasks of all kinds like this young woman identified, excuse me, in the photograph you see before you only as a washer woman who worked for the union army in virginia. tasks of all kind for the union war effort in many exchange for sanctuary from their owners. lincoln thus came to recognize this reality, and he changed course. and so as you know, he issued his emancipation proclamations,
10:35 am
the preliminary one in 1862 and the final one on january 1st of 1863 declaring all slaves this the confederacy to be legally free. lincoln's attitude toward black men serve anything uniform changed under the same pressure. during the first phase of the war, his government categorically rebuffed all attempts by black men to join the fight, to join union armies. but on this question, too, military necessity -- the news for more or soldier -- the need for more soldiers to fight the war ultimately proved more decisive. union policy evolved. it evolved from adamantly excluding blacks in 1861 and 1862 to then recruiting them as soldiers in 1863. and by the end of the war, some 200,000 black soldiers and sailors had served in the union
10:36 am
cause. and union policy toward those soldiers and sailors changed too, because at first they were confined almost solely -- speaking of the soldiers -- to noncombat tasks. but their courageous conduct whenever they came under fire, nonetheless, eventually led the union to welcome black troops into combat duty. and here we have a drawing of black troops playing a crucial role in liberating slaves in north carolina, a common scene in the last era of the war. as lincoln then repeatedly acknowledged, these black soldiers proved crucial to the eventual union victory. freeing and recruiting them, lincoln explained tirelessly, was, he said, the only policy that can or could save the union. any substantial departure from this policy, he said, insures
10:37 am
the success of the rebellion. without the colored force, lincoln emphasized, we would be powerless to save the union. most white northerners probably embraced wartime emancipation only because it undermined a foe that had sought to destroy their precious union. but many others came to view slavery's destruction as a worthy goal in its own right. over the course of the war, many white northerners who had never been abolitionists and who had never been particularly troubled in their consciouses by slavery also came to embrace emancipation for more than merely pragmatic reasons. in the ranks of people like this stood some northern democrats, a great many republicans and union soldiers of various political backgrounds. one of these was sergeant ely picket of minnesota who
10:38 am
explained to relatives in early 1863 that while he had, quote, never been in favor of the abolition of slavery, his experience in this war has determined me in the conviction that it is a greater sin than our government is able to stand, and now i go in for a war of emancipation, and i am ready and willing to do my share of the work. abraham lincoln, long opposed to slavery including on moral grounds, spoke for more and more union supporters when he stressed the transcendent meaning of emancipation in his second inaugural address. there he suggested that this terrible civil war was god's way of punishing the country as a whole for having indulged in the sin of slavery. and, lincoln added, if heaven now wills that the fighting and destruction should continue
10:39 am
until all the wealth piled up by the bondsmen's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, then, said lincoln, one could only bow the head and agree with the biblical psalmist that the judgments of the lord are true and righteous altogether. thank you for your attention. [applause] >> booktv is on facebook. like us to interact with booktv guests and viewers. watch videos and get up-to-date information on events. >> the author of five previous books, her new book is guest of of honor, booker t. washington,
10:40 am
theodore roosevelt and the white house dinner that shook the nation. why did this dinner drive the nation nuts? >> this dinner is a remarkable moment in history that has been completely forgotten, and it's because we just don't know about scandals like this. you know, our meter has changed. when booker t. washington walked up the five steps to the white house, he was the very first african-american to be invited to sit at the president's table. it had never happened before. african-americans had been invited to meet with presidents in their offices, they, you know, had business meetings all the time, but no one ever sat at the president's table. and the nation was outraged. it was really astonishing. >> why was he invited, by the way? >> el, booker t -- well, booker t. washington had a very, very successful working relationship with theodore roosevelt, and he
10:41 am
were working together to try to fix the race problem which was just as much with us, obviously, in 1901 as it is today, and, um, they were partnering to try to bring right-minded people into government. and they would get together and have these political conversations. one day roosevelt said to himself why can't i invite booker t. to join me for dipper and mix -- for dinner and mix business with pleasure? it was an innocent invitation, and it unleashed just an incredible outpouring of indignation from, um, all over the world. because it had never happened before. >> was the president's schedule always public, or how did people find out that this dinner was happening? >> the president's schedule was always public, and it was covered by some lowly journalist who probably hated this job. of it was his job to report that roosevelt had lunch with so and so or a meeting with so and so.
10:42 am
and the dinner took place in the evening and at about midnight the journalist looked at the president's schedule and probably rubbed his eyes, because he saw that booker t. washington had dined with the president. the news went out on the wire, and it was like a thunder clap. it was picked up by every newspaper, 5-inch headlines, most of them saying things that we literally cannot repeat today about why this dinner was such an outrage. >> what was the reaction of mr. washington and other presidents? >> their reactions at first were bemused. they ought, oh, this is just something that will flare up, and it'll go away. very quickly they realized that that was not happening. it seemed that every single person in america had to have an opinion about whether or not the dinner was the right thing to do, and there was some very funny responses.
10:43 am
mark twain, for example, who you might think would have been in favor of the meal said absolutely not, the president is just a high class tenant at the white house, and he has no right to express his personal feelings by inviting a black man to dine there. you know, the reactions fell into kind of predictable sections. the north was supportive, the south was not. but even the french, you know, had an opinion about it, and their opinion was, actually, we don't -- we're not amazed that, you know, it's the first time, we're amazed that it never happened before. so you can really, you know, find a reaction from every newspaper in america and in other parts of the world. >> what was the gist of the dinner conversation? >> the dinner was very innocent. they talked about roosevelt had just taken a hunting trip, they talked about their kids. two of the roosevelt children were at the table.
10:44 am
it was just a wednesday night, you know, at home with the roosevelts. nothing special. and after dinner the gentlemen retired to talk about race, but the dinner itself was just, you know, a family evening that was taking place, you know, at tables all over america, the same kind of thing. but at this table, you know, there was a hot seat. >> final question, what was on the menu? >> the menu has not been recorded, but roosevelt loved hot food and plenty of it. so probably hominy, biscuits, you know, comfort food as we know it today. >> deborah davis is the author of "guest of honor: booker t. washington, theodore roosevelt and the white house dinner that shocked a nation." thank you. >> thank you. >> now, from the 2012 miami book fair international held annually on the campus of miami-dade college, a panel on american history featuring candice millard, david nassau and les standford. it's about 45 minutes.
10:45 am
.. >> we can visit there, we been trying to learn the customs, we can translate the language, we can feel the air and the light. we can sniff the fragrances, recoil out the foul odor, but we are foreigners in a strange land. this is true as much for our recent past as it is for 12th
10:46 am
century venice. writing about the recent past is not easy, as i learned this time around. first there are people you have to talk to. and while i was privileged to spend a lot of time talking to a lot of kennedys, it is difficult for me as a historian, working with leading people. i would much prefer to work with documents. with living people you can't tell, but you have to figure o out, what's true, what's not true, whether they're telling you what they think is true, where the stories came from. because the stories are all told with the same authenticity, the same vigor. it's not easy. the other difficulty of writing about the recent past is that it's not always easy to
10:47 am
establish one's distance from the. to construct the strangeness of a past that is close to us. and yet this is what historians have to do. our job is to complicate, to take about our commonsense view of the recent past, to interrogate what we think we know, to be -- demystify, to move beyond the clich├ęs about winners and losers, saints and sinners, about the wisdom and courage of the greatest generation. to tell a different story not a true story based on all the evidence we can find. the life of joseph p. kennedy was, for me, sort of antique fun house mirrors, which, if i look at long enough, would reflect back to me, often an indistinct
10:48 am
distorted form, images of events, people, places, which organized and arranged the story of the 20 century america. joseph p. kennedy was a delegate type figure. he was everywhere. from world war -- he was born in 1888, lived through world war i, the roaring '20s, was in hollywood at the moment of transition from silent films to talking films. was on wall street during the boom and bust. worked as part of the franklin roosevelt campaign team, was the first chairman of the securities and exchange commission, the first chairman of the maritime commission, the first irish-american to be ambassador to the court of st. james, to
10:49 am
great britain. and the father of a president, and attorney general, a senator, the woman who did more to the mentally disabled in this country, in this world than anyone else, and who will, 100 years from now, be as well-known as her brothers i think. and the youngest, the ambassador to ireland who was instrumental in arranging peace, and senator edward kennedy, the longest-serving senator at his death in united states. the story of joseph kennedy is the story of a man who spent his life moving back and forth from
10:50 am
outsider to insider, from outsider to insider. it is the story of an irish catholic who was not ashamed of his heritage, but refused to be defined by it. he was a third generation immigrants. his parents had been born in the united states. his grandparents had come here when they were young people. joseph p. kennedy cared little about the country his grandparents had been born in. he had no desire to visit ireland or read about it. he was 100% american, and he couldn't quite understand why anyone would think of him as less than 100% american. is anchor -- is anchor growing up was the catholic church. being irish catholic in boston,
10:51 am
he needed an anchor your he was born in east boston, as a kind of local royalty. everybody knew his mother's family and his father's family. his father was a well-known, prominent boston politician, and very well respected, very well admired. and a very successful businessman. joseph p. kennedy went to boston latin. he was a star. he went out with a pretty school in boston who also happened to be the mayor's daughter, who he would later marry, was a star on the baseball team, everybody knew who he was. he was class president. then he went to harvard. and again, he felt part of the community. half of his class at boston latin went with him to harvard.
10:52 am
10% of the student population were catholic, and a large number from boston that the new from public schools. it was only when he graduated from harvard in 1912 that he understood for the first time, but not for the last time what it meant to be the irish catholic son of an east boston politician. he wanted to go into banking, into finance. he didn't get a job. he didn't get a job offer. he didn't get an interview. all of his friends and classmates, some of whom were not as good with numbers as he was, none of whom were as articulate, as charming, as handsome, his friends were protestant all got jobs, either
10:53 am
in their family banks or in another bank. the only way to get into banking was to take a civil service exam and become an assistant bank examiner, whose job it was to go around the state and examine bank books. he believed that, from that vantage point, bank presidents across the state, and especially in boston, would see this bright young man and offer him a position. they didn't. because he was an irish catholic, and their eyes, not harvard graduate, but an irish catholic boy from east boston. so he made his own way. he had to make his own way. and he developed his own contacts. the one area, the boone area in the economy of boston and the united states at that great of time was one, the yankee bankers
10:54 am
of boston, and new york to lesser extent, were paying the attention to come and that was still the moving pictures. they thought it was a fat is going to go with a y. in money in it? at kennedy do better. and because nobody else was paying attention, he got into film. and using a local bank as his page bank, a local bank that his father had helped start in east boston trust company, key, and using his friends, he raised enough money to make a bid on a failing film company. he found his way to hollywood, and in hollywood made it big. why? because he learned how to make his being an outsider into an
10:55 am
advantage. he arrived in hollywood as another kind of an outsider, a christian. and he said over and over again from the moment he arrived in hollywood, i am the all-american boy, i'm jack armstrong, i'm a boston banker and i'm here to rescue this industry from the bad reputation that has spread over it, because the dominant studio heads and producers are jews. i'm not a jew. and he said i probably, and he made lots and lots of contacts. he became the boy wonder of hollywood, because hollywood was scared to death that towns and cities all over the country would begin to censor the movie pictures come to the restrictions on children going to the movie pictures. why?
10:56 am
because there was something corrupt about an entertainment that was controlled by east european jews. kennedy was not an east european that you. -- east european jew. he made his fortune in hollywood. he made his fortune because he knew how the world worked, and he knew how the stock market works, and he knew how wall street worked. and every studio that wanted to hire him had to pay him in stock options. and he took those stock options and he held onto them, and he manipulated and he drove them down and up and down and up. and up into the stratosphere. when he left hollywood after a couple of years, he had fulfilled his dream of making enough money so that he could leave everyone of his nine
10:57 am
children a million dollar trust fund. a million dollar trust fund so they would not have the problems that he had had. the rest of the story is remarkable, and it took me 800 pages after a lot of pages cut out to tell it in my new book, "the patriarch." so i'm not going to be able to tell very much of it now. but from hollywood he remained the insider outsider, insider outsider. he supported roosevelt. he was an integral part of the new deal. he was the first commission of the sec in which he wrote so me tough laws about stock trade that when he was finished he had to stop trading stocks and took all his money out and put into real estate because the way he had made money he had now
10:58 am
outlawed. [laughter] he went on to be the first irish-american ambassador to great britain as i said before. was the first irish-american ambassador and probably the worst ambassador this country has seen. he did everything he possibly could to appease hitler. even when neville chamberlain, the author of the munich agreement, realize you could make a deal with hitler, said he was a madman, kennedy kept trying. he returned to this country in 1940, and in disgrace. and he had made it clear that no american dollar should go to support the british because they were going to get defeated. and the only way the americans could survive was to make a deal with the germans and the italians and japanese, that
10:59 am
anything -- war would destroy the country, the united states, we go back into depression. capitalism would be threatened, and the marks he would be threatened. he became a pariah, and outsider in 1940. and the last remarkable chapter of this man's life, from 1940-1960, the kennedy family goes from being lowest -- lowest, to 1960, joseph p. kennedy becomes the ultimate insider, the ultimate establishment figure, the father of the president of the united states. it is a wonderful story, and i had a great deal of fun if one
11:00 am
can call doing lots of research and lots of writing and rewriting and we writing fun, doing it. and i thank you for your attention. [applause] >> i hope you don't mind if i stand. i can see you better from this vantage point. honor to be here, on which he shared the stage with a writer like david nasaw. i was, having read some history set in more modern times in the piece i want to talk about today, i'm mindful of what david says, that are among the problems of writing about people who have descendents and those with whom they are still
11:01 am
connected allies. not only do some of these people want to give you advice as to how to tell your story, but some of them you discover have lawyers. [laughter] so it was with some sense of relief that i left the relatively recent present and went back to pre-revolutionary war day. i'm always mindful of the irony that i'm up here in a panel on history. i start -- i start off as a writer of fiction, wrote 10 novels. and almost by accident at the chance write a book about henry flagler and is building a florid and the railroad to key west. and having done the research for that, had no idea what i was up to, but i did my best. i look at this pile of notes at
11:02 am
the end of all the researching, and i said, what am i going to do with all that stuff? and i tried this way and i tried that way, and finally i threw up my hands and i said to myself, les, tell the story. it was the only thing i knew how to do really. and writing was to tell the story. and so i told the story of a man who wanted to build a railroad from miami to key west but everyone said was impossible. when you look at it that way, it was pretty easy. you start in miami, you go to key west. when you get there you are done. about the only difference as i like to tell my students, i teach in fy you come and i still teach fiction and i tell my students that they can when you get to the point in the novel where you need a fact, you just may get it. fiction. but in a story like this if you get to the point in your narrative and you don't have that fact, back to your sources, to the library, you have to go. if you can't find a fact sheet,
11:03 am
then you have to change her story to fit the facts. i miss those something that any journalist could have told me from the outset, but for me it was something of a learning experience. in this case i have told the story and we call desperate so sons, samuel adams, patrick in in, john hancock, and the secret band of radicals who led the colonies to war, i always worry with the subtitles if the publisher is fond of having attack on them attack on him as he read the setup you need to read the book -- [laughter] the truth is this is the story of the men, the radicals who took us into the revolution. i said from the beginning that the day the shot was fired around world was heard, my book was finished it because i discovered i had run across an article published in the new times at the beginning of the
11:04 am
current housing bubbles bursting that it wasn't the first time that such a thing had happened. and i began to tug on the thread of that, of that slave of history. and before you knew it, before i knew it, i had this book begun. let me try different way of bringing you into what it's about. in the wake of the recent presidential campaigns, the question of the day seems to be what now? a financial cliff looms, a partisan standoff in congress threatens, and modern-day tea partiers vowed that their control of republican fiscal policies will the pride only from their cold dead fingers. some might shrug and call this politics as usual, but a glance backward shows that impasse is
11:05 am
not always inevitable. current commentators and candidates are fond of using the great recession of the 1930s as a benchmark. but the truth is that the first major bubble to burst in the american economy popped even before the nation was formed. during the french and indian war, which spanned a decade from 1754-1763, the british quartered their troops in the colonies, sparing little expense in order to protect the crowns interests in the new world. housing prices and rents skyrocketed throughout the northeast as a result, greatly troubling benjamin franklin who just returned after five years as envoy to london said, the expense of living has greatly advanced in my absence. he added, that rents and land values moments of late are troubled in the past six years. british officers spent lavishly and locals who profited as
11:06 am
brokers and merchants and service providers were quick to emulate the habits of their sophisticated gas. when any highflyer needed in advance, the answer was simple, local legislatures influence on assurances from the mother country were quick to issue bills of credit, putting out local currencies based upon a little more than the certainty that the party would never end. but when the work included and the freeze expenditure to been withdrawn, the party did in. houses suddenly sat vacant. land values plummeted. mortgages went unpaid. homes and farms were seized. when the british imposed the currency act of 1764, forbidding the for the issuance of paper monies by the colonies, the colonial economy appeared on collapse. parliament desperate to recoup some vast sums expended in
11:07 am
defense of the congress passed a step act in 1765, imposing a tax of the very size of every business license and legal document on up in the colonies, as well as every copy of every magazine and newspaper printed. not to mention every deck of playing cards, paradise employed by the county on lady luck to see them through hard times. the cries of outrage were heard all the ways across the atlantic. how could a government be so out of touch, colonists wanted? americans were already out of work, out of cash, and out of hope, burdened by sugar and molasses taxes, and sick and tired of an unwieldy bureaucracy rife with overpaid, incompetent, functionaries who had no interest in their struggle. colonists were taxed out, fed up, and demanding a sea change in the way their government operated. now, if this sounds like a
11:08 am
recap, to some of the rhetoric has been flying across contemporary airwaves, it's little surprise. tough times have always made for tough politics. that there's one significant difference to keep in mind. in 1765, colonists had no hope, however illusory, that the next election or the other party might turn things around. in fact, there were no elections of substance. ultimate authority resided with the king and parliament. when colonists complained that the political leaders were out of touch, it was not a rhetorical flourish. no taxation without representation would ultimately become the rallying crime that provoked a war against the most formidable military power on earth. given our current sorry economic circumstances, we could also remember that the executions of our forefathers were made on the
11:09 am
half of a desire to forge a nation out of a group of colonies that even then comprised quite disparate interests. planters, farmers, merchants, slaves, indentured servants and persecuted minorities of all stripes. even after the nation was forged, tough times endured well into the succeeding century but the situation i'm in a common purpose to endure and to succeed. to those who fought, to forge a system of government, nothing was more important than the maintenance of that new system. and here i'm going to close by segueing to something that might give you a little more of an idea specifically what's in this book. calling this five differences between the original tea party and today's, or five reasons they should have seen their losses coming. you have to amuse yourself with
11:10 am
these. [laughter] one, the original tea party was a raid conducted on british ships by highly radical political organization known as the sons of liberty, composed largely of working men, sailors, trade, storekeepers. today, the so-called tea party there is chapter of the sons of liberty represents the most conservative wing of the republican party. two, the original sons of liberty orchestrate an arms going against the british so that an american can could perform. contemporary tea party and sons of liberty members enjoy the benefits of that very governme government. they just don't see -- seemed very happy about it much of the time. three, most of the wealth in american colonies was held by resident british subjects will post the comment of the party's other day. contemporary tea party's will happily tell you that 47% of their fellow citizens are
11:11 am
moochers. [laughter] four, bostonians samuel adams, you seen him on the beer bottle -- [laughter] and chief spokesperson for the original sons of liberty was so poor that his neighbors took up a collection to hire a tailor so that he could be properly attired for his appearances their representative to the cardinal congress. michele bachmann buys her own clothes. [laughter] five. contemporary tea party members threatened to -- that was in the government over a precipice and less democrats compromise on issues such as spending, universal health care and the end of tax breaks for certain wealthy persons. in 1792, old radical sam adams was asked if he supported with key rebellion farmers who, in that year, had begun shooting at federal agents rather than pay taxes they considered unfair.
11:12 am
adams harrumphs. revolt against the king and parliament, excluding subjects from the government is just unnecessary, he said. but in his opinion, any citizen of a democratic government who took up arms against that government ought, in his opinion, to be hanged. corporate name change, anyone? thank you very much. [applause] >> we will take questions. i think it would like you to walk to the microphones, if you don't mind. >> is this working? this question is for professor nasser. in your research about joseph kennedy, there was some controversy during the election
11:13 am
of 1960 or 59, that joseph can be manipulated illinois politics to get his unelected president. did you come across any faqs about that sequence yes. yes, i did. jack kennedy didn't need his father to rig the election. that was someone in mayor richard daley -- [laughter] who did very well in illinois. that's number one to number two, there were rumors that the mob helped in and around chicago to pull out the vote. political scientists who have gone over the voting data and look at all of those districts in which there was a higher percentage of union representatives, although the unions that were supposedly controlled by the mob found that kennedy underperformed in those areas. the teamsters came out for nix
11:14 am
nixon. so kennedy spent all the money he did, could, pulled all the strings, but jack kennedy certainly didn't need him in chicago and kennedy would have won the electoral college even without the illinois votes. >> you make joseph kennedy sound only as positive. i have just heard stories over the years of less than savory things, and maybe a bit of a pirate in a lot of his teeth. do you have any examples of that? >> yeah, i have. hundreds and hundreds of pages. you know, it's always hard to know what you write, you write a book, you stick it out there, and then you discover what it's about.

Book TV
CSPAN January 20, 2013 10:00am-11:15am EST

Bruce Levine Education. (2013) 'The Fall of the House of Dixie The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South.'

Network CSPAN
Duration 01:15:00
Scanned in San Francisco, CA, USA
Source Comcast Cable
Tuner Channel 91 (627 MHz)
Video Codec mpeg2video
Audio Cocec ac3
Pixel width 704
Pixel height 480
Sponsor Internet Archive
Audio/Visual sound, color
disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only
Uploaded by
TV Archive
on 1/20/2013